The NBA released their initial list of All-Star fan voting results this afternoon. Among the starters, there weren’t really any surprises. In the East, you have Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard. In the West, you’ve got Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, and Yao Ming. Pretty much chalk.
Some may find it a little surprising on first impressions to see Dwight Howard leading the NBA in total votes, but when you look a little closer at what’s going on here, you’ll see that fans feel there is no alternative to voting for Dwight Howard at Center in the East. In the West, Yao has Shaq, Bynum, and Okur stealing a decent number of votes. In the East, Howard has no rival. But if you look closer at the fan voting in the East, you’ll see something unbelievably disturbing.
Take a look at the results for Centers in the Eastern Conference:
That’s right, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is eighth in voting for centers in the East. You even have one guy who doesn’t play center (Ben Wallace) getting more votes to play center in the All-Star game than Big Z. If you took everyone who voted for Z, you could barely fill up Quicken Loans Arena. 28,000 votes for the guy who is by far the 2nd best center in the East this season. It’s a disturbing show of the lack of respect Big Z has among NBA fans, and it’s really unfortunate more fans can’t appreciate Ilgauskas and the things he can do on the court.
Now, to be certain, Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA. It’s not even close. He has no rival. He deserves to be the leading vote getter, and he deserves to start. But lets make the argument for why Z deserves to be the 2nd leading vote getter among Eastern Conference centers.
First of all, despite being 10th amongst centers in the East in minutes per game (a result of both Mike Brown consciously wanting to limit his minutes in the regular season and the huge blowouts the Cavs have had this season, thus reducing the need for Z to play in the 4th quarter), Ilgauskas is still 2nd among centers in points per game at 14.8 ppg. He is 2nd among all centers in the entire NBA in PER at 23.44, just 4 points behind Dwight Howard.
Right now, Z is at 14.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 1.2 bpg. Look at some of the guys who are ahead of him. Samuel Dalembert (5.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg), Rasheed Wallace (12.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg), Jermaine O’Neal (12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Al Horford (11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg), and Andrew Bogut (10.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.0 bpg). Out of those guys, the only guy to play fewer minutes per game than Zydrunas is Dalembert, and yet Bogut is the only one to average more than 0.5 rebounds per game higher than Ilgauskas. None of them average more than 0.5 blocks per game above him. And yet Z averages more points per game than all of them. His efficiency rating is higher than all of them.
A new thing people like to do is add up points, assists, and rebounds as a way to measure and compare players across positions like LeBron, Kobe, and Chris Paul. Well, what happens if we add up points, rebounds, and blocks for these centers? The list looks like so:
This list looks pretty dramatically different from the corresponding list of votes. But what happens when we normalize these numbers for minutes by adjusting them to a per 48 minute basis? Take a look:
No matter how you look at it, I find it hard to comprehend how a player like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, having easily the best and most efficient season of his entire career, can be so low in voting despite outplaying everyone else at his position in the Eastern Conference this season other than Dwight Howard.
I realize none of this really matters because the fans vote for the starters only, so this really only affects Dwight Howard, and he is without doubt the deserving starter at center. But this is more about respect, or a lack thereof, for one of the genuine great guys in the NBA having a great season. It’s about a player having such a great season at this later stage of his career getting some recognition for his accomplishments. It’s about the fans showing a little bit of knowledge about the voting process.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Who knows why fans vote the way they do. There are many possible reasons for this. Some are legit, some are not. Maybe it’s just that Cavalier fans lack the passion to show their support for one of their own. Or, maybe it’s just that Cleveland fans have more knowledge about the game in general and thus vote for the most deserving guys rather than cast homer votes down party lines. No matter what the reason for these results, it’s an absolute joke that Ilgauskas is eighth in the Eastern Conference among centers. He deserves better from NBA fans.